What I’m Reading : Episode 39, October 2021: justice and injustice

October has been a month with some wonderful books, my first real visit to a library and my first in-person author event for about 18 months. November is going to be all about novellas but before I get stuck into that, let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading lately and what might be next in line.

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What I just finished reading

The Beekeeper of Aleppo  by Christy Lefteri : this has been hanging around on my bookshelves for a couple of years because I wasn’t sure whether it would be too much of a misery fest. I think I was jaundiced by the plethora of books about people who survived horrendous experiences (including The Tattooist of Auschwitz , The Librarian of Auschwitz). I knew Lefteri’s book was based in an entirely different country and time period but my mind couldn’t help but make a connection. Fortunately I did overcome my prejudice because this was such a haunting, provocative novel about a couple forced to flee from civil war in Syria and endure a horrendous journey through refugee camps to reach an uncertain future in Britain.

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed: deservedly shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize this is an equally powerful novel based on a real-life story of injustice. It’s set in Cardiff, not far from my home, so the local connection was one of the reasons I wanted to read the book. Nadifa Mohamed brilliantly conjures up the multi-cultural nature of the city’s Tiger Bay community and also the racial differences which played a key role in the execution of the Somai seaman Mahmood Mattan. I finished reading the book just a few days ahead of Nadifa’s visit to Cardiff to talk about the story that inspired the book, her own family connection and reflections on justice.

What I’m reading now

I thought I’d get a head start on some of the titles I’ve picked up for Novellas in November and Australia Reading Month. So I’m off to France to catch up with Inspector Jules Maigret via Maigret In Court  the 55th title in the Maigret series created by Georges Simenon. This one shows the detective towards the end of his career; he’s aged 53 and is preparing for retirement by purchasing his first home, a country retreat in a quiet village. As the book opens, Maigret is in court at the trial of a picture-framer accused of murdering his aunt and her four year old ward.

On the iPod to accompany my gym sessions is Still Life, one of the most recent novels from the queen of crime Val McDermaid. I’ve never read anything by her but, given her reputation, I was expecting this to be a much more engaging read. It has two murder cases, one begins with the discovery of a skeleton in an abandoned camper van and the other with a body fished out of the Firth of Forth. Responsibility for both cases falls to DCI Karen Perie who has featured in five earlier novels. The two plots are skillfully woven together but I’m not feeling a great deal of enthusiasm overall.

I made a preliminary selection for Novellas in November and Australia Reading Month way back in September. But that was before my recent visit to the library where for the first time since Covid knocked everything sideways, I was allowed to browse, rather than just stand at the door to be handed a bag with reserved items. So of course I came away with a few more books. So now I’m torn between reading the ones I’d chosen in November and the newer arrivals which include a few more novellas like Cousin Phillis, a short work by Elizabeth Gaskell that I’d not heard of previously. China Room by Sunjeev Sahota is also on the bedside table, calling loudly to be read.

What are your reading plans for the next few weeks? If you’ve read any of the books on my “reading next” list you can help me make a decision.



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BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

17 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 39, October 2021: justice and injustice

  • November 1, 2021 at 3:53 pm
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    How lovely to get to an author event and into the library properly! I went on my first train since The Start on Saturday! I haven’t read any of those but I did a big post about my Novellas and AusLit Month today.

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    • November 1, 2021 at 4:05 pm
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      I get to do my first outing on public transport next Saturday. Rather nervous about it

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  • October 31, 2021 at 10:06 am
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    I’m glad you were able to go to an in-person author event for the first time in 18 months. It makes such a difference, doesn’t it, seeing these things live and ‘in the flesh’?

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    • November 1, 2021 at 4:15 pm
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      Absolutely, I was so grateful for the on line events at times because they broke up the routine but I missed the buzz you get from being in a live in person event

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  • October 31, 2021 at 9:32 am
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    I’ve just enjoyed The Fortune Men too, and on your recommendation may try The Beekeeper of Aleppo, which I’d been ignoring for similar reasons to you.

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      • November 2, 2021 at 8:10 am
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        OK! On the list, and available in my local library- eventually. There’s a queue for it, which says something.

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  • October 30, 2021 at 12:38 am
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    I’m so glad you didn’t let those dreadful books by Morris and her imitators put you off.
    Lefteri is in a different class altogether.

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    • October 30, 2021 at 3:47 pm
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      It was such a wonderful book, it’s still buzzing around in my head (LOL)

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  • October 29, 2021 at 6:41 pm
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    I’m squeezing in a few novellas in November!

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  • October 29, 2021 at 5:41 pm
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    Very keen to read The Fortune Men. I hope you enjoy China Room as much as I did.

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  • October 29, 2021 at 5:07 pm
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    Not read any of the books mentioned I’m afraid, Karen, but the one or two you enjoyed sound good (especially when there’s a local connection). I went inside Cardiff Central Library for the first time yesterday and I’m a bit envious of those who have this on their doorstep, so if this is where you’ve acquired your books I can see why that visit netted you a fine haul.

    Like you I’m lining up some possibles to read for NovNov, including a Stefan Zweig I bought at Waterstones Cardiff. We’ll see how it goes, though no Australian books sadly.

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    • October 30, 2021 at 3:49 pm
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      My library visit was much closer to home – Barry. I used to pop into Cardiff occasionally and still have my membership card but it;s a shadow of what it was. The whole top floor used to be books – now its working spaces.

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    • October 30, 2021 at 3:51 pm
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      I’ve not read many of them and I wasn’t sure about this one because its in a courtroom whereas what I love is to wander the streets and bars with Maigret. But actually I’m enjoying his commentary on the justice system

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  • October 29, 2021 at 2:48 pm
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    Nice!
    I didn’t know there was another mystery entitled Still Life! I have read the one by Louise Penny, the first volume of her Gamache series, so good.
    I just finished 3 books :
    Maigret #11 yesterday! We have been reading them with one of my French students. We both really enjoy them.
    And a good mystery by new to me author, Alison Morton. If you are curious you can have a look here, and even request the book, and review it in your own time: https://francebooktours.com/2021/10/12/alison-morton-on-tour-double-identity/
    I also just finished an awesome collection of haiku by Richard Wright, yes! It’s called Haiku: This Other World, really excellent.

    Reply
    • October 30, 2021 at 3:51 pm
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      I know, I was confused when I saw the book title too

      Reply

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